We are now seven months into the pandemic and the coping mechanisms of distracting oneself or placating our fears with “it will all be better once we have a vaccine (soon)” are no longer as effective. In its place a new realization is sinking in: that returning to “business as usual” is likely to take a lot longer than originally hoped for. The thought of this is enough to make one want to curl up under a blanket, binge on Netflix and wait the storm out.
As incredibly lovely and tempting as hibernating for the next several months sounds, it is not likely a viable option for most. Instead there are obligations to be met, bills to be paid, health to be maintained, essential needs to be taken care of, customers to be served, families to be fed and loved ones to be cared for. It won’t always be easy but if we are going to put one foot in front of the other and show up to our lives, work and businesses each day we are going to need to come up with ways to operate successfully in “the new normal.”
With that in mind, here are some things to try.
Dig deep and find a “why” that will inspire you to get going when it gets tough. The perils of wishing for what cannot be is that it often leads to paralyzing despair. Instead, find something in your life — whether it is the creativity and passion that once led you to be an entrepreneur, meeting the financial needs of your family, the passion you have for serving your customers, your desire to be successful or your refusal to fail. Write that down and use it as your guide for when the anxiety creeps in.
Get in the mind of your next customer. Not yesterday’s customer but the one who is going to buy from you tomorrow. Think about them in a deep and thorough way. Who are they? What are their challenges right now? What needs do they have that are not being met? How can your products and/or services meet those needs? Are there any new needs or emerging ways that you can serve them? How are you going to reach them to make sure they know about you? This is one of the most powerful exercises that a business owner can do to ensure that they are innovating and maximizing the ways to deliver value to their customers and generate sales.
Set realistic short-term (three-month) goals: Identify what you absolutely need to meet your obligations and have peace of mind. Perhaps it is simply breaking even, covering payroll through the winter, or making enough profit to pay yourself to cover your bills at home. Do not force yourself to go bigger than you need to right now anywhere in your life. This is a time to simplify.
Get laser focused on "winning the day." It is easy to spend so much time worrying about tomorrow that the chance we had to make a sale today gets lost. Instead, try developing a habit of starting out your day by getting clear on what you need to accomplish that day to move forward towards your goal.
Think like a startup. Analyze your life, business, organization, time commitments and pending purchases. Identify what is mission critical for you to meet your goals and what is not. Get lean by eliminating the processes, products, services and stressors that are a distraction. Give yourself permission to say "no" to or put things on a shelf that are not critical for right now.
Lastly, be gentle and kind to yourself, your staff, fellow community members and loved ones through this process. If this is a long dark winter we are likely to need to lean on and support each other more than ever to make it through to brighter days.
(On a lighter note, did you know that a group of bears is called a “sloth” or a “sleuth?”)
Jessica Newhall is the associate director and Small Business Management program manager for the Clatsop Community College Small Business Development Center. She can be reached at email@example.com.